Survey finds parents unwilling to trust automated vehicles for children

A recent MUARC study has reported that parents are unlikely to use an automated vehicle (AV) to transport their unaccompanied child.

The online study surveyed 775 Australian drivers, with 43.5% of participants stating they would 'never' trust an AV to transport their unaccompanied child. Conversely, only 7.7% of participants said they would 'definitely' allow their unsupervised child to travel in an AV.

Participants were also asked about their knowledge of specific Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), whether these technologies were in their own vehicles, and asked to rate their 'technical readiness'.

The study, led by Associate Professor Sjaan Koppel, was the first to investigate whether driving behaviour is a factor in parents' willingness to trust AVs with their unaccompanied child. Interestingly, participants who self-reported aberrant driving behaviours such as errors and lapses were more likely to allow their child to travel unsupervised in an AV.

In addition, willingness to use an AV to transport their unaccompanied child was significantly associated with:

  • Being male;
  • Being older;
  • Having a higher level of education;
  • Having a higher level of optimism regarding technology, and
  • Having heard about/or some knowledge of AVs.

Based on the findings of the study, manufacturers are encouraged to consider reassurance features and technologies when prototyping future AV designs. For example, 71.1% of participants reported that the most important AV feature was the ability for a child to be released from the vehicle in the event of an emergency, followed by the ability for a child to signal distress to an adult and the ability for a child to summon emergency personnel.

The study notes that parents are likely to be more open to using AVs for themselves and children in coming years as they become more exposed to technology.

Click here for the full paper in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour (access through your institution or PDF purchase is required).